Posted on Jun 24, 2019, 2 p.m.
Despite all the research and attempts to educate the public, Amercians are still eating the same amount of processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages, and lunch meats as they were 18 years ago.
High consumption of processed meats has been linked to a variety of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and increased risk of some cancers in numerous studies. Additionally processed meats have been classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Yet despite all of this knowledge and it being confirmed in multiple studies of the health risks, on average Americans are still consuming too much processed meat according to research from Tufts University.
According to the nationally representative study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic the researchers found that along with processed meat Americans are also eating the same amount of fish and shellfish as they were in 1999 which may be due to high cost, lack of awareness of the health benefits, and concerns of certain fish containing mercury contamination.
Overall red meat consumption was found to have decreased in recent years due to people opting to eat more chicken, and for the first time poultry consumption has risen to 303 grams per week to surpass unprocessed red meat consumption at 284 grams per week within the USA.
Data was reviewed from some 44,000 Americans aged 20 years and older who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2016. Diet trends were identified over the past 18 years which revealed seafood consumption remains unchanged at 116 grams per week and is still lower than what is recommended; less than 15% of the participants met the recommended guidelines for fish and seafood consumption in their diets.
Processed meat consumption was about 187 grams per week in 2016, with lunch meat, sausage, hot dogs, ham, and bacon being reported as the top consumed meats. In previous work Zhang has found that 14,524 cancer cases in 2015 could be linked to high consumption of processed meat. The World Cancer Research Fund, American Institute for Cancer Research, and the American Cancer Society have all issued recommendations of limiting processed meat consumption for cancer prevention.
“Despite strong evidence linking processed meat with cancer risk, consumption of processed meat among US adults didn’t change over the study period of 1999-2016. While factors other than health such as social, cultural, and economic can influence Americans’ food choices, the lack of widespread awareness of health risks associated with processed meat may have contributed to the lack of consumption change in the past 18 years.” according to Fang Fang Zhang.
“Findings of this study can inform public health policy priorities for improving diet and reducing chronic disease burden in the US. Because stores and fast-food restaurants are main purchase locations for processed meat, future policies may prioritize these as primary sites of intervention for reducing processed meat consumption among US adults,” adds Zhang.
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